Saturday, April 20, 2013

"A Map of Tulsa"

Benjamin Lytal has written for The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Fence, The Daily Beast, and The Nation.  For four years he wrote The New York Sun’s “Recent Fiction” column.  Originally from Tulsa, Lytal currently lives in Chicago.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Map of Tulsa, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
background, having drunk all afternoon; I found myself heading upstairs again, taking the stairs in giant steps, slowly, wobbling, turning into the same storage room, and curling up for a nap just the same, shortly after dark. I slept for a long time. And when I woke up, deep in the night, with the carpet imprinted on the side of my face, it felt like time had looped, and I resolved to myself to do something good with my life, to break the loop.

I didn't go down the stairs this time but continued around the landing, and careened truly innocently into a bedroom where the light was on. Beneath the light, Adrienne and Chase lay there sleeping. They were strewn on the bed below me, covered with blankets. I was riveted. I stood there with a rocky feeling on my face. I stood and studied Adrienne's nose, pressed flat on its side, an intense rose color smushed on the white pillowcase. Adrienne cracked an eye.

But it was Chase who got it together and unfurled an arm to greet me. "Join us," he said, his voice hoarse.

I didn't believe it.

"Come on," said Chase. "Let's get some sleep."

They weren't touching; they were sleeping in different halves of the bed. I stepped out of my shoes.

To climb in, I had to plant my knee and hand beside Chase. Then I hesitated. "Should I turn out the light?"

Chase smiled, amused. "Why sure."

Then I made my way back to the bed and, planting a knee without touching Chase, I tried to bridge across them to get down on the far side of Adrienne. She rolled away, however. And then Chase just pulled me down like a dog. He laid his arm across me. "It's cool," he said.
This is the whole of A Map of Tulsa page 69. I'm very happy that we landed here. The narrator, a boy named Jim, is in an exploratory mood ... he's beginning to wonder if bold initiative and passive luxuriance aren't, late at night, one and the same thing.

I'll end by quoting a review that sheds further light on page 69:
“Jim and Adrienne’s relationship begins with some mild drug use and frottage before lurching into a creepily detailed ménage a trois, at which point the novel begins to shake and rumble like a small, unexpectedly powerful volcano....”
—Tom Bissell, Harper’s
Learn more about A Map of Tulsa and Benjamin Lytal on tumblr and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue